World’s first neoprene with enhanced biodegradation to be made available as open source technology.
With the annual Blue Earth Summit showcasing outdoor brands at the forefront of sustainability, Wavelength is stoked to announce Dakine as a partner for the Bristol-based meeting of like-minds on 11-13th October. The timing, as ever, is all important.
Dakine has just launched a range of wetsuits made from FriendlyPrene; the world’s first neoprene with enhanced biodegradation. Not only that, but they’ve made their innovation open source technology that will be available to all wetsuit brands with no license or exclusive agreements. The goal is to have wetsuit companies collaborating on the introduction of low-impact innovation to the market.
Now, like rain on your wedding day (or a no-smoking sign on your cigarette break) the irony that neoprene originally was invented to line landfill sites shouldn’t be lost on surfers. Synthetic rubber is incredibly good at keeping us warm but is a notoriously dirty product. The neoprene used in an average wetsuit can take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to biodegrade. And that’s even when wet, in the back of a hippie’s car, with a dog sleeping on it.
In more bad eco news, conventional wetsuits can contain as many as a dozen different materials that are nearly impossible to recycle. As with Highlander (look it up kids!), or vampires, the average wetsuit has no clear end-of-life solution. That’s why an estimated 8,380 tonnes of old wetsuits end up in landfill each year.
Dakine, who entered the wetsuit market in 2020, has come up with a solution to this eternal post-consumer wetsuit waste problem. Called FriendlyPrene it has been developed with the Japanese neoprene maker Yamamoto and uses EcoLogic’s Eco-One® technology to enhance the biodegradability of the wetsuits.
Eco-One is an organic additive that enhances the biodegradation process through a series of chemical and biological processes when disposed of in a biologically active landfill. These landfills aren’t in all locations, but in the USA and Europe are increasing in number, and make up most of the new facilities.
Without getting too sciencey, the Eco-One additives allow for the formation of a coating or “biofilm” on the surface of the wetsuit. The biofilm is made up of microbes that penetrate the plastic, which in turn attract more additional microbes to the site. Once all of the microbes have been assembled, they collectively feast on the polymer chains, thus breaking down the chemical bonds at an accelerated rate. An eco-friendly version of the human centipede. Of sorts.
Tests on FriendlyPrene in biologically active landfills have shown a 30% breakdown in the first 522 days. It’s important to note that in these landfills after the biodegradation process, the leftover material is biomass with trace amounts of biogas, that can be used to generate electricity and renewable natural gas.
Now all that is incredible, but as surfers we still want our wetsuits to be warm, durable, and comfortable, no matter how much biogas is produced at the end of its death cycle. Dakine’s goal was a neoprene with the same or better flex, warmth, durability, and affordability as the best neoprene on the market. The open source angle would only work if other brands want to use their tech. The more the pick up by other companies and innovators, the bigger the positive effect.
Dakine boast that over two years of development and extensive third-party lab testing, the FriendlyPrene performs the same as Yamamoto’s industry benchmark #39 foam. Used in Dakine’s new Mālama range, they are first and foremost, a high-end performance wetsuit. While they have put durability at the centre of the wetsuit design to make longer-lasting products, the APEX fit pattern and zip-free design hit all the high-performance criteria. It’s the early stages, but it’s hoped that this type of technology can improve a long-term solution to surfing’s 50-year-long wetsuit waste problem.
The Blue Earth Summit invites the world’s most sustainable outdoor brands to showcase their values, product innovations, and manufacturing upgrades that enable them to have a positive impact on the planet. Dakine’s new tech will be one of the talking points for the Summit and a perfect example of how if we work together, as surfers, we can all do better.